A brief history of the Canadian flag.

In their comments on my PhotoHunter contribution this week on flags, several people asked me what  flag Canada had before we had the current flag, the red maple leaf in a white background.

Up until 1965, we had no flag that was truly “Canadian”.

Most of our flags were either the flag of the country to which Canada belonged or derivative of them.

To understand the history of the Canadian flag is to understand the history of Canada as a nation. Rather a large project for this little blog.

Canada as a nation did not exist until 1867. Prior to that, it was claimed by France, initially. Then Britain made claims to portions of what would later become Canada as part of their broader claim of American colonies. While the American colonies were settled early on by the Dutch and the British, Canada was merely seen as an exploitable resource to the French and the British (and, on the West coast, by the Russians). It wasn’t until the 17th century that France brought the first settlers.

The first flag to appear on what would later become Canada was carried by John Cabot during his exploration for the British Crown.

That flag was known as St. George’s Cross:


St. George's Cross

Jacques Cartier planted a cross with a flag bearing the French royal coat of arms and the Fleurs-de-lis. After that, the French colonies of New France flew whatever the latest evolution of French military flag was current, one commonly used one was this:



The British colonies, meanwhile flew the British flag which eventually replaced the fleurs-de-lis when France ceded its colonies to Britain as part of its settlement in the Treaty of Utrecht (any historians may be tearing their hair out over my foreshortened version of Canadian history… sorry… trying to summarise not write a thesis!).

First flown in 1610, the Royal Union flag was used at all British establishments on the North American continent from Newfoundland to the Gulf of Mexico. This flag is often referred to as the flag of Canada’s United Empire Loyalists. From the early 1760’s it was the flag that flew over British North America, which included what would later become Canada. Post-revolutionary War, Canada consisted of “Upper Canada” and “Lower Canada”. Upper Canada the mainly English-speaking regions, upstream on the St. Lawrence and into Lake Ontario, Huron and Erie, and Lower Canada was the mainly French-speaking regions of the colonies….. downstream on the St. Lawrence, along the Gaspe, and into the New Brunswick.

Royal Union

Royal Union

Following the Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland in 1801, the diagonal Cross of St. Patrick was incorporated with England’s St. George’s Cross and Scotland’s Cross of St. Andrew. This gave the Royal Union its present-day configuration. This flag was used across British North America and in Canada even after Confederation in 1867.

The first “Canadian Flag” to appear was not intended as “Canada’s Flag” but became the flag flown, usually below the Union Jack. It was the flag of the “Canadian Red Ensign” the flag of the British Merchant Marine, with an added crest on the right hand side.

Red Ensign 1868–1921

Red Ensign 1868–1921

Red Ensign 1921–1957

Red Ensign 1921–1957

Red Ensign 1957-1965

Red Ensign 1957-1965

From 1868-1921, the flag included symbols for each of the provinces which were then part of Confederation, as each came into Confederation. Eventually the shield depicted just the founding peoples of Canada (ignoring, of course Native Peoples…) England, Scotland, Ireland, and France over three maple leaves.

Eventually, though, many Canadians were wanting a distinctly “Canadian” flag, something that did not owe its design to the flag of another nation. There had been movements over the years to create a flag but met with great resistance. In the early 1960s, with the approach of the Canadian Centennial in 1967, there was renewed interest in a new Canadian flag. When, in 1963, the new minority Liberal government under Lester B. Pearson came to power, Pearson pushed for a Parliamentary debate over the subject. Opponents were many and vocal, including the former Prime Minister, John Diefenbaker.

Pearson had his own design in mind, three joined maple leaves on a white background, with blue side-bars representing the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. It met with stiff opposition in Parliament and was dubbed “The Pearson Pennant” by detractors. Eventually, a committee of 15 multi-party members was formed to come up with a design suitable and appropriate was formed. Canadians were invited to send in their ideas and public excitement and debate grew.

After reviewing many designs, the Committee finally settled on a design by George F.G. Stanley, a professor of history in New Brunswick. The committee approved the design, October 29, 1964, and later passed by a majority vote in the House of Commons on December 15, 1964. The Senate added its approval two days later.

It was proclaimed by Queen Elizabeth in January, 1964, and in February, it was inaugurated.

Canada had a new flag!

The Canadian Flag...

The Canadian Flag...

PhotoHunter: “Flags”

With Canada Day approaching (July 1 – unless it falls on a Sunday at which point “Canada Day” is the 2nd…. except that all the celebrations are on the Sunday which is July 1st and “called” Canada Day, which means that you get to celebrate Canada Day on “Canada Day” and get the day of on Monday which is Canada Day….. unless you are someone who works in retail or a service job… Then you get to WORK  and wait on everyone else who is celebrating on “Canada Day”  — don’t ask….)… I thought I would share just a few of the flags you might see.

If you are wondering at the lack of crowds, that is because there are thousands of people up on Parliament Hill watching the Noon celebrations. Once they end, there are thousands of people out on the streets, painted with flags, wearing flags, waving flags…. Unfortunately, my camera battery died just at the crucial time.

I will be taking more photos, this year. You can check back and see them. Meanwhile, these are from the last few years.

The flag atop the Peace Tower, Parliament Buildings, Ottawa.

The flag atop the Peace Tower, Parliament Buildings, Ottawa.


The RCMP escort for the Governor General

The RCMP escort for the Governor General and Prime Minister

The RCMP escort

The RCMP escort

Flags aloft

Flags aloft

Flags held high....

Flags held high....

Flags held low....

Flags held low....

...and Flags held somewhere in between....

...and Flags held somewhere in between.... (those are my grand-nephews and niece)

But the place that leaving a flag means the most….

... on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, at the National War Memorial...

... on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, at the National War Memorial...

By the end of the day, there are thousands.

On November 11th, people leave their lapel poppies atop the tomb. By the end of the day, one can hardly see the tomb at all.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was designed to be approached and touched, not kept away from Canadians. Unfortunately, it’s approachability had led to problems. Some people don’t even know what it is and stand or sit on it. Last year, scandal erupted when drunken louts were photographed and filmed urinating on the National War Memorial. Now, guards stand nearby during events such as this.

Funny true story about the Canadian flag. I was out in Oregon visiting my brother and sister. One day, my brother took me to the University of Oregon where he worked. We went through the library because he heard they were setting up a display on Canada he thought I might like to see.

Basically, it was two library display cases with some pamphlets and books on Canada. Throughout the display cases were a number of Canadian flags, each and every one of which was upside down (the leaf top pointing down). When I pointed this out, my brother laughed and I said that if it was an American flag, he’d be pretty upset. He agreed and we went off to find the librarian to point out this “travesty”… When I pointed out the error, he said… Oh! I didn’t know those were FLAGS! I thought they were just decorations….”

I guess a little research for the display might have gone a long way to helping apprise him of the fact that this was our flag.

My mother’s lawyer, John Matheson, later a Member of Parliament under Lester B. Pearson, was one of those responsible for choosing Canada’s new flag, back in 1965.

I remember Mr. Matheson very well, though I only net him when I was 5 when he hamdled my adoption by my strp-Dad. I remember him because he had been wounded during the war and let me feel the soft spot where he had no skull… true story!

t-shirt friday

This is one of the few t-shirts I wear with something written on it. I have some others but don’t wear them. Fat people, especially women with a large “verandah”, just can’t carry off a shirt with writing all over it.

I bought the shirt at the last Fred Eaglesmith show I went to. It’s for his song “White Rose” which laments the passing of the old White Rose filling stations. Toby Keith (spit… spit…) covered the song (not well) and a lot of people think the song was written by him… Why an American “spandex country” singer would write a song about the demise of a chain of Canadian gas stations, is something I guess they don’t wonder.

I am hoping to head off to Vankleek Hill on Sunday and see about getting a Beau’s Lug*Tread shirt.

Other participants are:




Don’t cry for Michael Jackson.

I couldn’t care if Michael Jackson was the “King of Pop” or the king of Spain. Talented, he may have been. A sad, sad person so unhappy with himself that he had to carve himself up into a freak… Sure. But to admire him is offensive to all those children who he molested.

The accolades being heaped on him by the famous and the fans does a disservice to all those children yet to be molested by other pedophiles who see in him a kindred spirit.

Sure, he was acquitted but it wasn’t his innocence that got him off. It was his money and his fame that “acquitted” him. He paid off the parents of the children, something that those children will live with for the rest of their lives. Shame on him, shame on the parents, and shame on his excusers.

He and OJ will have plenty to talk about when they meet up.

“King of Pop”?… Maybe.

Pedophile?… yes.

“8:30 Newfoundland”, a new Canadian anthem!

Mike Plume has a new CD out (which I purchased!) and it has what I consider to be the new Canadian anthem. If this doesn’t make your goose bump, nothing will. It is goosebumpy with Canadian-ness!

I have played it so many times, already, that I may have to get a replacement CD!

Please give it a listen and PLEASE pass it along to all your little chums. If we work real hard, we can get this on the airwaves repeatedly ebfore Canada Day.

Mike Plume (from his MySpace)

Mike Plume (from his MySpace)

I also went to see Mike at The Black Sheep in Wakefield on Saturday night. What a GREAT show!

Mike Plume, at The Black Sheep, Wakefield, QC

Mike Plume, at The Black Sheep, Wakefield, QC

Captain Disillusion meets his toughest case yet – The Pantry Ghost

Faced with an apparently unsolvable challenge, CD is ready to give up, and until a familiar force offers a helpful hand. (The Amazing Randi Foundation)

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Urge the PM to allow the Canadian Embassy to help Iranians in crisis

The Canadian Embassy in Tehran is open only to treat Canadian wounded and to shelter people in immediate danger.  I sent an email to the PM to urge us to do more to assist Iranians in this crisis.

Mr. Harper,

I am asking that the Canadian Embassy in Tehran be open to assist Iranians injured and in danger in Iran.

I understand that Canada walks a fine line in assisting protesters but we must do what we can. We helped American citizens when the American Embassy was over-run during the Revolution. In fact, we went above and beyond the call of duty and broke laws in order to do so. We MUST help Iranians during their crisis by doing whatever it takes to give aid.

Thank you,

To encourage the government to allow the embassy in Tehran, email the Prime Minister of Canada:

The Hon. Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada at: pm@pm.gc.ca

Heartbreaking Images From The Iran Green Revolution 6/2009

A collection of photos depicting the events surrounding the uprising after the 2009 presidential election in Iran. Could be upsetting.

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Woman Shot, Dying In The Street, in Iran.

WARNING Graphic…

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Poem for the Rooftops of Iran – June 19th, 2009

Subtitled version of “INJA KOJAST INJA IRAN AST SARZAMINE MANO TO” – a woman speaking about the state of her country while filming the rooftop shouting of “Allah-o Akbar” in Iran on Friday June 19th, 2009 [from jams o donnell]

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